Trump’s EPA and Climate Science
Trump just appointed one of the most environmentally dangerous lawyers to become Administrator of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s Attorney General. Yet there might be some hopes left.
Like the transition team EPA member, Myron Ebell, Scott Pruitt is a climate change denier. Ebell worked for the Competitive Enterprise Institute (Backed by the Koch brothers) as a professional climate denier, but he had not been involved in legal attacks on the EPA regulations. While both would be canceling EPA regulations, Ebell would have been less effective. Scott Pruitt’s campaign in Oklahoma, and in the transition team, was backed by Oklahoma’s richest man, deca-billionaire oilman Harold Hamm. As Attorney General of the oil state Oklahoma, Pruitt became an expert at fighting EPA regulations. Those included restrictions on methane emissions from natural gas wells. Methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2, on a per kWh basis. With this background, Pruitt will be much more effective in cancelling regulations and fighting the greenhouse gas regulations before the Supreme Court, with Trump’s new conservative Justice.
It is crucial for the US to keep funding our world-leading climate scientists, and the young, brilliant students that they have been training. These people are a national resource and investment that will go to waste if research does not vigorously continue. The climate scientists do not spend all of their time trying to prove climate change. They are experts understanding important environmental effects that are related to weather, farming, forest fires, basics of the ocean food chain and fisheries, sea level rise, ocean acidity, storms, flooding, hurricanes, etc. These industries and effects have enormous economic value that we need to protect, and minimize the large costs of the deleterious effects, that we all pay for through insurance.
The only good thing about Scott Pruitt’s argument against climate science, is that he says that scientists have not settled the issue whether it is caused by fossil fuel burning. That argument requires that climate science continues to be funded until the important truth about it is found out. If the Trump administration reduces such funding, it will just show that they do not really believe in this argument.
An important part of this research is from NASA’s earth monitoring satellites. These are mainly launched for practical applications, as listed for the fields that climate scientists study: weather, crops, forest fires, snowpack, underground water reservoirs, etc. Cancelling the satellites, or transferring them to other agencies without expertise in satellite programs and too little money to fund the satellites, is giving up on essential services to US industries and states. We will end up having to buy such satellite services from European governments or China.
The Senate has just past a bill requiring NOAA to start forecasting for longer periods, between two weeks and two years. This will require cooperation with climate scientists who are already doing such longer term forecasts. The goal is very practical, to be warned of extreme polar vortex freezing in Northern states, and effects of El Niño and La Niña, as well as hurricanes and tornadoes.
I will no longer blame Trump alone for attacks on the EPA. Essentially all Republicans are heavily funded by the $9 billion dollar a year in oil industry profits, down from about twice as much in past years. Republicans all have the same false attitudes toward climate science and man-made climate change. They are all dedicated to fighting EPA regulations. If any other Republican were elected, with the same Republican dominated Congress, and appointing Scalia’s Supreme Court successor, the fight against the EPA would remain the same.
One of the saving graces is that the worst greenhouse gas generation by coal is being economically displaced in the market by cheaper natural gas, and by increasingly cost effective solar, wind, and hydro power. Both in the US and worldwide, unhealthy air pollution by coal burning is being limited in all countries. Also, the Democratic coastal states will continue their conversion to natural gas, clean power, and more fuel efficient vehicles. Since fuel economy is an individual choice as well, the majority of the public that appreciates preventing climate change will keep the auto industry making more fuel efficient vehicles for all.